Saturday, March 20, 2010

Home On The Range

Photo is of the buffalo on the ranch and changed in a photo program to watercolor.

Just a few miles from our house lies the Durham Ranch where over a thousand head of buffalo roam with Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, and antelope. We live on the grasslands of Wyoming where a rich abundance of wildlife share the open prairie. These bison, which are commonly called buffalo in the USA, are small black specs that we see out our front window have inspired my husband's latest project. Home On The Range, a knife, where buffalo trail off single file through blades of waving grass. My husband is a Mastersmith knifemaker and he utilizes many of the techniques of blacksmiths of old along with modern technology. Everyone of his blades begins in the forge and is pounded into shape upon an anvil.

Don't be misled into thinking that these buffalo are etched or engraved upon this blade. What you see is hundreds of steps masterfully executed to form this one of a kind piece. The blade is still a ways from being finished but I thought you might like to come along with me and take a brief glimpse at the journey the blade has traveled to get to this point.

Kirk and I have a strong belief that we should be learning always and improving ourselves and our talents. With that philosophy, Kirk began exploring a new way to do mosaic pattern Damascus which would equate to less distortion of the pattern.
The buffalo are cutouts from a large sawmill blade. These cutouts were stacked one on top of another four inches tall and placed in a 4x4 inch metal tube. The tube bottom was covered with a plate and welded shut. Then Kirk poured in powdered metal of a different chemistry to form contrast with the buffalo until the tube was completely filled. Then a lid was placed on top and welded. Into a fiery hot forge Kirk positioned the tube and he cycled it in and out keeping it glowing red while he sometimes subjected it to blows of his hammer and other times pressure of his hydraulic press. In this manner of careful manipulation he compressed the tube down to a 1 x 1 inch square 16 inches long. I watch the process yet I can't comprehend how the buffalo are reduced down to this tiny size and not become disfigured. From here on out it makes more sence to me. The buffalo piece is cut into tiles and aligned side by side. A custom built suitcase is arranged around them to hold them in place while they are subjected to the forge, hammer, and press once more. This unites them into one piece. Here the buffalo are being removed from the metal suitcase.

The grass is then created which is hundreds of layers of metal forged and twisted to create these small strips. A trip hammer dating back to 1806 that was once use on a South Dakota farm to pound out plow shears has found new life in Kirk's knife making shop moving hot metal to produce art.

These three Damascus pieces are formed around each other to create a blade.

Then once more put into a custom built metal suitcase and back once more they go into the hot forge.The heat, pounding and pressing forge weld the three pieces into one. The metal suitcase is then removed.
This intricate blade is still in its rough form even after many hours of labor.
The look is exquisite and we are excited about how it turned out. I look forward to collaberating with Kirk choosing handle material, guard design, and butt design. The creative process where our ideas flow back and forth as we brain storm together about the little details is a special time that we share together. I can't hardly wait to get started and I'll let you have a glimpse of the knife when it is done. If you're interested I'll blog briefly about the completion stages.

Hopefully other projects won't shove it aside for long for we have a beef to process and it is hanging in the garage right now. Also Kirk has a full time job besides building knives and designing for two knife companies. If you want to see more of Kirk's knife artwork go to he will be blogging about this knife soon.

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